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Discovering Florence: A Guide to Italy's Artistic Capital

What to see and do at Florence

· 12 min read

Florence is a city that is synonymous with the Renaissance. It's a place where art and culture are celebrated, and where visitors can immerse themselves in the best of Italian traditions. In this guide, we'll explore some of the highlights and must-dos in Florence, from its world-famous art and architecture to its culinary delights and vibrant culture.

Source: PROPOLI87
Source: PROPOLI87

Where to go: Art Buff Edition

Florence is home to some of the world's most iconic art. If you are visiting Florence, you should most definitely check out the art works at these galleries:

Uffizi Gallery

Source: Petar Milošević
Source: Petar Milošević

Located in the heart of Florence, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous museums in the world, and also one of the most visited museums in Italy. It is known for its incredible collection of unique Renaissance art and sculptures. The collections include works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. If there is only one art museum that you could visit in Florence, this should be it.

Given its fame, it is no surprise that the queues at the Uffizi Gallery could get rather long. It is recommended to book a ticket in advance to skip the queues. However, you may want to note that there is an additional charge of 4€ for pre-booking of tickets.

🗾 Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8.15am - 6.30pm (ticket office closes at 5.30pm). Closed on Monday.

💲 Cost: 25€ for a regular ticket. Free for visitors under the age of 18. Free every first Sunday of the month.

⏰ Recommended time spent: 3-4 hours

Accademia Gallery

Source: Clayton Tang
Source: Clayton Tang

You don’t need to be an art buff to know Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. The Accademia Gallery is home to this world-renowned statue, and if you were in Florence, this is definitely a must-see. And it’s not just the famous statue of David — the Accademia Gallery actually has the largest number of Michelangelo's sculptures in the world.

Pre-booking of tickets online is also available, at an additional booking cost of 4€.

🗾 Address: Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8.15am - 6.50pm (last admission at 6.20pm). Closed on Monday, 1 January, and 25 December.

💲 Cost: 12€. Free for visitors under age 18.

⏰ Recommended time spent: 1 hour

Bargello Museum

Formerly a prison building, the Bargello Museum is now Italy’s first national museum. It features a stunning collection of sculptures, and is a must-visit if you were interested in sculptures rather than paintings. It has the largest Italian collection of Renaissance and Gothic sculptures in the country, with original works by Bandinelli, Donatello, Antonio Rossellino, and other Renaissance masters. Some of the key highlights at the Bargello Museum includes Donatello’s bronze sculpture of David, and Michelangelo’s Bacchus.

Bargello Museum is usually less crowded than the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery, making it a good option if you wanted to enjoy some art while avoiding the crowds.

🗾 Address: Via del Proconsolo, 4, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 8:15 am - 1:50 pm. Closed on Tuesday, on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month, and on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Monday of each month.

💲 Cost: 11€. Free for visitors under age 18.

⏰ Recommended time spent: 1 hour

Brancacci Chapel

Source: Erik Drost
Source: Erik Drost

Although it is not an art museum by nature, the Brancacci Chapel contains one of the most important monuments of the Italian art. The frescoes by Masaccio, Masolino, and Filippino Lippi in the Brancacci Chapel illustrates the story of the life of St. Peter. Spend some time observing the paintings, and you will notice the different styles of the three artists. It is one of the best opportunities to observe the painting history of the Florentine Renaissance in a single moment. Take note that advanced reservations are required for entry to the Brancacci Chapel.

⚠️ There are ongoing restorations taking place at the chapel. The chapel will be scaffolded for the whole of 2023, so you may want to take note when planning your trip.

🗾 Address: Piazza del Carmine, 14, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Mondays / Friday / Saturday: 10am - 5pm; Sunday: 1pm-5pm

💲 Cost: 7€

⏰ Recommended time spent: 30-45 minutes

Pitti Palace

Source: Yanko Malinov
Source: Yanko Malinov

The Pitti Palace, or Palazzo Pitti, was built in 1457 for the Pitti family and later sold to the Medici family in 1550. It symbolised the Medici’s power over Tuscany, and was house to the Court of two other dynasties. Today, the Palace, together with the surrounding Boboli Garden, is house to five different museums. The museums host an impressive collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by Filippo Lippi and Botticelli.

🗾 Address: Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8.15am - 6.30pm (ticket office closes at 5.30pm). Closed on Monday.

💲 Cost: 22€ for combined ticket for Pitti Palace and Boboli Garden

⏰ Recommended time spent: 3 hours

Where to go: Architecture Enthusiasts

Florence's architecture is as impressive as its art. Here are some of the most iconic landmarks in the city that you should visit:

Duomo

The Duomo, or the cathedral, is undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers Florence’s historic center. It dominates the skyline with its magnificent dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who is also known as the father of Renaissance architecture.

Source: Petar Milošević
Source: Petar Milošević

To get the best views of Florence and to see the dome up close, you will have to climb up the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo. Time slot reservations are required to visit the dome. The cathedral itself is free to visit, but if you want to visit anything else in the complex (such as the dome, bell tower, or museum), you’ll need to purchase a pass. There are various passes ranging from 15€ to 30€, depending on which attractions you want to visit.

🗾 Address: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Opening hours vary depending on what you want to visit in the complex

⏰ Recommended time spent: 2-3 hours

💲Cost: 15€ to 30€

Palazzo Vecchio

Source: Jebulon
Source: Jebulon

The Palazzo Vecchio, a fortress-like palace located in the heart of the city, is another must-see attraction. It is the town hall of Florence and the main symbol of power in the city. Embark on tour that leads you through the secret passages built into the palace. Be sure to also climb the tower during your visit, and on your way up, see the prison cells where the famous Savonarola was kept before he was executed down in the piazza in front of the building. Take note that children under the age of 6 are not allowed into the tower.

🗾 Address: P.za della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: 9am - 10pm from Friday to Wednesday, 9am - 2pm on Thursday

💲 Cost: 18.50€

⏰ Recommended time spent: 2 hours

Ponte Vecchio

Source: Commonists
Source: Commonists

Ponte Vecchio is a famous bridge in Florence, Italy that spans the Arno River. It is known for its unique design and historical significance, as it is the first bridge in Florence and has been in use since the 14th century. The bridge is characterized by its three arches, medieval towers, and the rows of shops that sell jewellery and souvenirs line its sides. One of the most interesting features of Ponte Vecchio is the Vasari Corridor, a passageway that runs above the shops and connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. The corridor was built by the architect Vasari in 1565 for the Medici family to move around the city safely and unseen.

🗾 Address: Ponte Vecchio, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Basilica di Santa Croce

Source: Luca Aless
Source: Luca Aless

The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is a historic church located in the city of Florence, Italy. It is one of the largest Franciscan churches in the world and is known for its beautiful architecture and impressive artworks. It is also the final resting place of many famous Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, and Dante Alighieri.

🗾 Address: Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday: 9.30am - 5.30pm; Sunday: 12.30pm - 5.45pm

💲 Cost: 9€

⏰ Recommended Time Spent: 30 mins - 1 hour

Where to Eat: For the Foodies

Florence is renowned for its delicious cuisine, which is based on simple, high-quality ingredients. Some of the most popular dishes include bistecca alla fiorentina (a thick, juicy steak), ribollita (a hearty vegetable soup), and *pappa al pomodoro (*a tomato and bread soup). Don't forget to try some of Florence's famous cheeses, such as pecorino and parmigiano-reggiano, and indulge in some of the city's decadent desserts, like cantucci (almond cookies) and gelato.

Source: George M. Groutas
Source: George M. Groutas

Mercato Centrale

The Mercato Centrale (Central Market) is a historic indoor market known for its beautiful architecture, bustling atmosphere, and the wide variety of food and products that are sold there. The market is located in a large, two-story building with an iron and glass roof. The ground floor is dedicated to food vendors, including butchers, fishmongers, cheese shops, and fruit and vegetable stands. Here, visitors can find a wide variety of local and seasonal products, as well as traditional Tuscan specialties such as cured meats, olive oil, and truffles.

Source: Mercato Centrale
Source: Mercato Centrale

On the upper floor of the Mercato Centrale, there is a food court with a wide range of eateries, including pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and gelato. The food court is a popular spot for lunch or a quick snack, and it offers a great opportunity to try traditional Tuscan cuisine.

🗾 Address: Via dell'Ariento, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 9am - 11pm, Friday to Saturday: 9am - 12mn

Sant’Ambrogio Market

Source: Destination Florence
Source: Destination Florence

The Sant’Ambrogio is the oldest market in Florence, and is a must-visit if you would like to experience the authentic, traditional market in Florence. The market is not as famous as the Central Market, so the crowds are more manageable. While you’re here, be sure to try some traditional foods like lampredotto (made from cow’s stomach) and cured meats like finocchiona (fennel salami). You’ll find some excellent Tuscan food at the Trattoria Da Rocco restaurant.

🗾 Address: Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: 7am-2pm; closed on Sunday

Gelateria La Carraia

Source: Gelateria La Carraia
Source: Gelateria La Carraia

Gelateria La Carraia is a popular gelato shop that is thought to be one of the best Gelato shops in Florence. is known for its high-quality gelato, friendly service, and reasonable prices, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The gelato at Gelateria La Carraia is made with all-natural ingredients and traditional methods, resulting in a creamy and flavorful treat that is hard to resist. The shop offers a wide variety of flavors, from classic options like chocolate and vanilla to more unique options like fig and ricotta or pistachio and cardamom.

🗾 Address: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: 11am - 11pm daily

Osteria All’antico Vinaio

Source: All'antico Vinaio
Source: All'antico Vinaio

Osteria All'antico Vinaio is a legendary Florentine popular sandwich shop that has been around since 1991. Osteria All'antico Vinaio is known for their "schiacciata," which is a type of flatbread sandwich that is stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings like prosciutto, pecorino cheese, and truffle cream. The sandwiches are served on freshly baked bread, and they are generously sized, making them a great value for the price.

Queues could get long, but if you are already at Florence, you really should give this a try.

🗾 Address: Via dei Neri, 65r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: 10am - 10pm daily

Trattoria Marione

Trattoria Marione located in the Oltrarno is known for its traditional Tuscan cuisine and warm atmosphere. The restaurant is housed in a historic building and has a charming, rustic interior with exposed brick walls, wooden beams, and cozy seating. The menu features a range of classic Tuscan dishes, including homemade pasta, grilled meats, and hearty soups.

Be sure to try the "pappa al pomodoro," a traditional Tuscan soup made with tomatoes, bread, and olive oil. The restaurant is also known for its "bistecca alla Fiorentina," a grilled T-bone steak that is a classic dish of the region.

In addition to the food, Trattoria Marione has an extensive wine list featuring both local and international wines, as well as a range of other beverages. The service is friendly and attentive, and the staff is happy to make recommendations and help guests navigate the menu.

🗾 Address: Via della Spada, 27/Rosso, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

🕤 Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 7pm-11pm daily

What to Do: Experiences

Apart from visiting the various attractions, here are some top experiences to consider in Florence:

Attend a local festival or celebration

Source: Lorenzo Noccioli
Source: Lorenzo Noccioli

The most famous event is the Calcio Storico, a medieval form of football that is played in the city's main square, Piazza Santa Croce, typically in June. Other notable events include the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, an annual music festival that takes place in May and June, and the Festa della Rificolona, a lantern festival held in September.

Join a truffle hunting tour

A truffle hunting tour is a unique and enjoyable way to experience the Tuscan countryside and learn about one of the region's most prized culinary ingredients. With the help of a trained guide and their dog, guests can discover the hidden world of truffles and sample some of the delicious dishes and products that make use of this prized ingredient. You can experience these tours almost all year round because different types of peak at different seasons.

There are several tour operators and companies in and around Florence that offer truffle hunting tours, including Truffle Hunter and Truffle in Tuscany.

Explore Ponte Vecchio from the water

Exploring Ponte Vecchio from the water is a great way to see this iconic bridge and the surrounding architecture from a unique perspective. The common options of a boat tour or river cruise are available if you are looking for something relaxed. For the adventurous, you can consider Stand-Up Paddle Boarding. Several companies like Toscano SUP offer guided tours that take visitors on a paddleboarding adventure along the river, passing under the bridge and exploring the surrounding area.

Day trips to explore Tuscany

Florence is a great base for exploring Tuscany. You can take day trips to nearby cities - visit the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa just 1 hour away from Florence by train; explore the colourful houses, stunning views, and hiking trails in the picturesque coastal region of Cinque Terre; or visit the medieval city of Siena for its stunning Gothic architecture, including the famous Piazza del Campo and the Siena Cathedral.

Tuscany is famous for its wine, and the Chianti region is located just south of Florence. You can also take a day trip to the Chianti region for a guided tour of local wineries and sample some of the region's famous red wines.

Accommodation

Florence offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. If you want to stay near the attractions, the area around the Duomo, Santa Croce, and San Lorenzo are great options. This area is filled with charming boutique hotels and apartments, as well as some of the city's most famous landmarks. Another great option is the Oltrarno neighborhood and Santo Spirito, which is located across the river and is known for its artisan shops and lively nightlife. For a more peaceful stay, consider staying in the hills outside the city, where you can enjoy stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Getting Around

Florence is a small city, and most of the attractions are within walking distance. You can also use public transportation, such as buses, trams, and taxis.

Tips

  • If you are planning to visit multiple attractions, check out the ticketing options in advance as some of them offer bundle tickets and passes at a cheaper rate.
  • As you will be walking around quite a lot, make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
  • When visiting churches and museums, it's important to dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees. Some of these sites also sell disposable robes for those who need them.
  • It is advisable to spend at least 2 days in Florence to cover most of the attractions, and an additional few days if you want to take day trips to explore the region.